Have you ever noticed that the men and women on the covers of fitness magazines always look toned, tanned, and happy? I know, I know, most of us look happier and more toned when we're tan, but maybe they're onto something. Research shows that in addition to improving your body composition and giving you a more toned, fit appearance, weightlifting can also improve your overall health and make you a happier person. Weightlifting can also help you burn fat, reduce your risk of diabetes, prevent back pain, and even help you fight depression (just to name a few!).
The benefits of weight training are endless, but if you're still not convinced, check out a handful of benefits below:
1. Lose Body Fat
It's well known that weight training builds muscle, but did you know that as lean muscle increases so does your metabolism? And a higher metabolism means that you will burn more calories ALL DAY LONG! For each pound of muscle you gain, you'll burn 35 to 50 more calories per day which can really add up over time. Studies have shown that the average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for two months will gain nearly two pounds of muscle and will lose 3.5 pounds of fat.
2. Enhance Mood, Reduce Stress, and Fight Depression Symptoms
Have you ever heard the phrase "endorphins make you happy?" When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that prevent pain, improve mood, and fight depression, which means that an increase in endorphins naturally reduces stress and anxiety. Weight training can both brighten your day and help you combat a bad one!
3. Decrease Risk of Osteoporosis
Have you ever noticed that individuals who break their hip after a fall are typically in their 60s, 70s, and 80s? As you age, you naturally lose muscle and bone mass. This is especially true and of special concern for women, whose bones are smaller to begin with and can become dangerously weakened by age. Weightlifting can help fight this. Weight training increases bone density, which reduces the risk of fractures and broken bones. Just as your muscles adapt to the stress of weightlifting by becoming bigger and stronger, your bones also adapt.
4. Move with Ease
Being able to recruit the proper muscles in the right sequence, also known as body awareness, is KEY for moving in a way that is both efficient and safe in daily life. For example, when you get out of a car, there's a pattern in which your muscles are recruited that is correct:
1. You activate your core.
2. You rotate your trunk.
3. You bring your leg out of the car, fire your hamstrings then glutes, and then you stand up.
Doing a squat in the gym helps you to learn how to perform those movements correctly, rather than doing what most people do which is to put the pressure into their toes and quads with no core stability at all.
5. Improved Balance
Your body has various smaller muscles called stabilizer muscles which do exactly what you would think: they help stabilize you. Although you might lift weights to flatter your flexing muscles (think pecs and hamstrings), each time you work out you're indirectly targeting those little muscles that help keep you upright and take care of everyday tasks such as balancing on one foot to reach a high shelf or stopping yourself from falling on an icy surface. This is especially important for people as they age as falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in adults over 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Do any of these benefits surprise you? Have you experienced your own benefits from weight training? If so, I'd love to hear about them!